Archive for Golden Retriever

For the Love of a Dog

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on November 15, 2013 by Lisa Mills

Snowdog

Last Friday, November 8th, we lost our Golden Retriever, Lucy. She collapsed in our yard while running and playing and died instantly. She was a mere eight years old and was full of life until that last second. The vet speculated that the cause was cardiomyopathy – a weakening of the heart muscle. The photo you see here is of a colored pencil piece I did of her last year, her muzzle full of snow. It’s titled, Snowdog. She truly was the best dog we’ve ever known in my family and even though it’s been a week, the grief I’m suffering has not abated. Not one bit. I’ve never known a dog with more spirit and character and the house feels empty without her in it. Our poor other golden, Gracie is grieving right along with the rest of us, her leader and playmate nowhere to be found.

Lucy loved her people. She liked to be nearby…I mean really nearby. She’d often times lean on me, or plop her head in my lap in order to get an ear scratched. If that didn’t do it, I was likely to get the paw slapped upon my knee until I paid attention. She knew how to get your attention. She had a little trick she’d do if you weren’t paying attention. We called it “the head toss.” If she wanted to go out, or wanted a bite of what we were eating, or simply needed you to pay attention to her, she would flip her head in the air – often twice in a row. Then she’d stare at you and command the stage. You became her audience and she was on the stage. She didn’t like loud noises and she hated it if I swore at the television when my favorite football team was playing poorly. If you called her over, most times she would go find a ball or another toy to bring to you – an offering. She knew how to make you smile and she loved to please her people.

My artwork centers mainly around two things – the very realistic still life (such as my guitar and saxophone triptychs) and animal art. Many people shun animal art in favor of more trendy or contemporary art. I’ve met plenty of people like that and I don’t understand that mentality. They really criticize works that depict horses, dogs, or even the family cat. If that inspires the artist, then why not a painting of your favorite pet? I think animal art has just as much significance in the art world as a still life of two apples on a table – maybe more. For some reason, animal art is much more challenging to me to portray the animal realistically enough. Often, fur comes out somewhat stylistic, which is not my intent. My therapy in this time of grief is to do a portrait of Lucy. My photo reference is a favorite of mine, her playing in the snow again. I don’t love the lighting in it because it was taken on a cloudy day, but I love the expression on her face. I just hope I can do her justice and capture that expression. My favorite part of illustrating animals is working on the eyes. They really do capture the soul and if I can depict the expression properly, I can capture the animal’s personality.

Hopefully, I can post some works in progress of her portrait. I’ll have to put the work aside for a bit to prepare for the upcoming holidays and get ready for a workshop I’m having in February, but I will endure and see this portrait through. I read something written by Peter King, the Sports Illustrated “Monday Morning Quarterback” writer who lost his Golden Retriever the day before we lost Lucy. He said, “The easiest way not to feel this grief is to never have a dog. And what an empty life that would be.” Rest in peace, Lucy. I hope you have finally caught that squirrel you so desperately tried to catch while you were with us for those brief eight years.

Happy New Year!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 3, 2012 by Lisa Mills

Happy New Year everyone!  I’ve been too busy to blog lately, so I thought I’d bring everyone up to date with what’s been happening at the drawing board.

Thanks to two great friends who had a lot of confidence in me, I complete my first two commission pieces in 2011.  The first, Lola (see Blog Post titled “Commission Accomplished”) was done as a Christmas gift from a dear friend of mine for her hubby.  This posthumous portrait was of a beautiful and spirited Golden Retriever.  The second piece was titled “Annie” (see below).  Annie is an adorable West Highland Terrier who is the pet of another dear friend’s mom.  This too was a Christmas gift and boy, was I sweating it out Christmas Day knowing that the two gifts were being unveiled to their recipients that day!

“Annie”
Copyright 2012, Lisa M. Mills

In addition to Lola and Annie, I recently finished a picture of a horse while experimenting with a new technique.  Here’s his photo:

“Gentle Glance”
Copyright 2012 – Lisa M. Mills

I love the new technique.  It’s a lot more fun to execute and it has a real painterly feel to it, but with the media control of pencil.  That’s all the time I’ve got for now…I will share with you soon the newest portrait of my dog Lucy playing in the snow.

Commission Accomplished…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 15, 2011 by Lisa Mills

I delivered my first commission piece this morning!  My client was a sweet friend from college whose family had lost their beloved Golden Retriever last year.  The artwork will be a gift for her husband for Christmas.

I wasn’t prepared for how nervous I’d be creating this piece for a client.  My biggest goal in illustrating animals (and people, for that matter) is to capture their personality in their facial expressions.  If I can’t recreate the expression, I have not succeeded…and that is just for my artwork, in general.  Add in a paying client and I want to create the character in the animal and satisfy the client.  It was a bit intimidating, to say the least.

This piece took me about 3 – 4 weeks to complete.  I was working from a photograph and the final piece was about 8 times larger than the photo.  It is in colored pencil and oil and wax pastel on Stonehenge 300 gsm. paper.  I met with my friend once before I got started to see exactly what she envisioned.  I met with her again when the piece was mostly complete to “tweak” parts of the illustration that were not quite right.  I texted several iPhone photos of the drawing while it was in progress.

Here is a photo of the final work:

She was a beautiful dog and all of her photos showed what a great personality she had.  I love the grin on her face!  My friend was happy with the final product and for that I am grateful.  As an artist however, I’m never 100% satisfied with anything I create.  There is always room for improvement.  I also feel like if I ever become completely happy with a piece, then I probably have become complacent.  I look at each piece I do as a learning experience and I always hope to grow with each step.  Thank you, my friend for trusting me with this beautiful girl! I can’t wait to see what your husband thinks on Christmas morning.